HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— Freshman Kareem Canty’s flurry of 18 points in the final 11:29 was not enough to bring Marshall back as The Herd fell to Charlotte 74-70 in the regular season finale Thursday night.
Canty finished the game with 22 points after making only one bucket in the first half and became just the third Marshall freshman to tally 500 points in a season.
“Really?” said Canty, who had no idea he had reached the milestone. “That really means something to me. Thanks.”
Canty’s individual accomplishment has been a bright spot in what otherwise been an extremely disappointing season for The Herd. In the last two years, Marshall has lost 40 games, the worst two-year stretch in the basketball program’s history. The Herd concluded the regular season 10-21 and meager 4-12 in league play. The finished in a tie for 14th in Conference USA which means a date with No. 11 Florida Atlantic in the first round of the conference tournament next week in El Paso.
“We’re 0-0 now, all of us,” said Canty. “No matter our record, other teams’ records, no matter who has the byes, no team is ahead of us now. It’s all about going out and playing and seeing who’s best. If we don’t win, we don’t have any more games to look forward to, so that puts it on us.”
Marshall struggled throughout much of the game containing the 49ers’ big men inside and shooting from the floor. Charlotte’s Mike Thomas and Willie Clayton combined for 33 points and 20 rebounds while The Herd shot .386 from the floor, the 10th time this season Marshall has shot less than 40 percent from the field.
“We just can’t keep shooting 39 percent from the floor offensively. We can’t keep doing that. That puts so much pressure on our defense to get every stop. It’s just really, really painful,” lamented Coach Tom Herrion after the game. “When we have easy scoring opportunities, we leave them empty … dunks, free throws, stickbacks and layups. Our offense was just as big a factor in losing the game tonight than our defense was.”
Despite the poor shooting performance, The Herd was still in the game late, thanks in large part to Canty’s flurry of points. The Herd was down 11 points with 1:41 to go but Canty drained a pair of three’s to pull The Herd to within four. But it wasn’t enough.
“I don’t know why we wait until the last seven minutes of the game to play,” Canty said. “It’s something we’ve got to work on, and quick.”
“We’re as talented as any team in the conference,” Canty insists. “We just have to believe and play like it. Marshall has done it before; I feel we can do the same thing if we just believe.”